Staying ahead of the aging game
Twelve per cent of Canada’s population is over the age of 65, and this percentage is growing each year. It is important for both boomers and seniors to have a sound financial plan and have good health as they move into this stage of life.
Moving into the later years free of long-term or serious illness may not be easy. In fact, it may demand as much knowledge and effort as financial planning. As we age, our risks of heart disease and diabetes increase. Planning for these years should mean more than socking money away. It also needs to include eating sensibly, exercising, taking steps to control illness, and engaging in other activities to help you maintain and improve your health. Lifestyle plays a major role in many of the conditions that commonly affect our quality of life as we age. These include heart disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes.
A financial incentive to stay healthy
Here’s one more reason to be mindful of your health as you inch toward retirement. A healthy lifestyle now can help protect your financial well being when you retire.
Many companies are trimming coverage for future retirees. Some are eliminating this coverage. If you are in one of these situations and you retire before age 65 (when medicare coverage begins), you may need to shop for an individual health insurance policy. When you purchase individual coverage, insurance companies can ask about your medical conditions. They can factor your health status into the price they charge. The healthier you are, the lower your costs will likely be. Also, the fewer health problems you have, the less burdened you will be with costs. These include co-payments, deductibles and the health care expenses that your health insurance policy doesn’t cover. Even once you are on Medicare you may need to purchase supplemental coverage. This coverage helps to pay for prescription drugs and other services that basic medicare doesn’t cover.
The top 10 tips
Here are 10 tips to help you are prepared not only financially but also health wise:
1. Know your cholesterol numbers. A simple blood test can let you know if you have high cholesterol. National guidelines recommend that everyone over age 20 have a blood test to determine cholesterol levels. It should include results for total cholesterol, LDL, HDL and triglycerides.
2. Stop smoking. Smoking damages the heart. It raises blood pressure and damages blood vessels. It also promotes the buildup of fatty plaque in arteries and lowers levels of “good” cholesterol. This makes the blood more likely to clot and starves the heart of oxygen. Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do to help prevent a heart attack.
3. Know your blood sugar numbers. Monitor your blood sugar and maintain it at a normal level. Have a fasting blood sugar level test performed at least once a year. Risk factors for diabetes include obesity and lack of exercise. If your blood sugar level indicates a problem, work with your doctor or health care practitioner to make changes to your lifestyle. People with diabetes are more likely to develop other health risks, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.
4. Maintain a healthy weight. Eat high-fibre foods. These include fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. You also can try oatmeal, which has a type of fibre that lowers cholesterol. Other healthy foods are brown rice, barley, peas, and beans, chicken, baked fish, whole grain bread, low-fat yogurt, and egg whites or egg alternatives.
5. Another number to know. Your body mass index, or BMI, relates your weight to your height. It helps to determine if you are within a healthy weight range. A BMI between 25.0 and 29.9 puts you in the “overweight” category. A BMI of 30.0 or higher puts you in the “obese” category. If you are in one of these categories, you have a greater risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes.
6. Ease into exercise. When starting an exercise program, be kind to your body. Don’t start the first day with a 30-minute run. Instead, start with five minutes of walking. Add 1 minute every day until you reach your 30-minute-per-day goal. Talk to your doctor before you begin an exercise plan.
7. Find a way to relax. Too much stress can make you irritable and depressed. It also can increase your heart rate and raise your blood pressure. Relaxation eases your body’s response to stress. Types of relaxation include meditation, deep breathing, muscle relaxation, listening to relaxing music and picturing pleasant scenes. For best results, do one of these activities for 15 to 20 minutes once or twice a day.
8. Express yourself. Stress builds up if you keep your feelings bottled inside. Talk to your friends and family and ask for support. If you don’t have a good support system, work to develop one. That way, you’ll have someone to talk to when you’re upset. Consider joining a support group.
9. Be mindful of how you think. Certain styles of thinking can stress you out. Things like perfectionism, all-or-nothing thinking and negative thinking. Be mindful of how you think. For example, if you’re a perfectionist, try to lower your expectations of yourself and others. Learn to accept things you can’t change and practice viewing problems as opportunities.
10. Be aware of your blood pressure. An optimal blood pressure level is 120/80 mmHg or less. To prevent or manage high blood pressure, consider some lifestyle changes. Cut down on salt. Limit your alcohol and caffeine intake. Quit smoking. Watch your cholesterol levels. Be physically active every day. Lose weight if you need to. Reduce stress.
Wendy J. Scott (RN, BScN, MA) is the owner and director of human resources of Nurse Next Door’s Burnaby/New Westminster/TriCities office. Reach her at 604-268-6262 or email@example.com.